The Deep Dive: Savage Communications Receives $1.2 Million Broadband Grant

THE THEME: Savage Communications, Inc., was recently awarded a $1,271,835 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to expand broadband in Carlton County.

BACKGROUND: The funds were awarded by DEED through the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which began in 2014, according to the DEED website.

The 2023 grant dollars will help 503 families and businesses in the following townships add fiber Internet access: Barnum, Eagle Lake, Lakeview and Moose Lake, DEED said. Savage Communications will be able to offer broadband service at up to 1 gigabit per second for downloads and upload speeds of 1 GBPS when the $2.5 million-plus project is completed.

Map showing the area covered by a Minnesota state broadband grant

Savage Communications, Inc., was awarded a $1.2 million grant to add fiber Internet access to the townships of Barnum, Eagle Lake, Lakeview and Moose Lake.

Gary Meader/Duluth News Tribune

The grant program requires a 50% local match, so SCI will contribute all but $50,000 of the $1,271,835 not covered by the grant. At its Feb. 27 meeting, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved the use of $50,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to go to the local match if the project received grants.

State-level funding was awarded by the Minnesota Legislature. The state contributed $25 million in general revenue funding and $42 million through the American Rescue Plan Act for the 2023 grant cycle, said Bree Maki, executive director of DEED’s Office of Life Development. broadband connection.

The state’s statutory goal is to have homes and businesses across the state able to connect to broadband with download speeds of 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 MBPS or better by 2026, he said.

The download and upload speeds included in the SCI project exceed that standard.

“The broadband speeds Savage Communications has committed to 1GBPS download and 1GBPS upload far exceed the 2026 statutory targets. This is always a positive thing to see in our grant applications,” said Maki .

In a news release, House Rep. Jeff Dotseth, R-Kettle River, District 11A said there is more work to be done to expand broadband access, but grant funding will help close the gap. .

While most people expect reliable and affordable Internet connections to be readily available, parts of our state remain at a disadvantage in that regard, including here in Carlton County, Dotseth said. There are still coverage gaps in our area that need to be filled, and this grant will put many residents and businesses in the county on equal footing with other parts of the state and the world.

This is not the first grant Carlton County projects have received from the program.

DEED logs show that Cromwell and Kettle River were the target of the 2017 project led by Frontier Communications. The state has awarded a grant of $569,059; the total cost of the project was over $1.1 million.

In 2019, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa received $602,916 in funding for its Big Lake Road Project, which had a total cost of more than $1.2 million.

Mediacom received a grant totaling $801,834 in 2022 for a project targeting eastern Scanlon. The total cost of the project was more than $2.7 million, according to DEED records.

WHAT’S NEXT: The terms of the grant state that the project is expected to be completed in two years, Maki said. However, the timeline can be extended if the weather causes delays.

“We know that living in Minnesota, the weather is unpredictable, we can’t do projects when the ground is frozen, necessarily, and other factors, so we will definitely work with suppliers to make sure they are able to complete projects in a timely time frame.” , but also having some flexibility and understanding that we don’t have control over everything that enables active construction,” said Maki.

The Legislature has allocated $100 million over the next two years for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. Maki said the office plans to award $50 million in grants this fall and another $50 million in 2024.

The Deep Dive is a monthly report produced by the staff of the Cloquet Pine Journal. Got an idea for a topic you want us to dive into? E-mail

[email protected].

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten

By Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.

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